Hosts Sri Lanka thrashed Zimbabwe by 82 runs in the opening match of the World Twenty20 at Mahinda Rajapaksa Stadium in Hambantota on Tuesday.
Ajantha Mendis recorded the best ever international Twenty20 figures of 6-8 as Zimbabwe were shot out for 100 in 17.3 overs, after Kumara Sangakkara (44) and Jeevan Mendis (43 not out) had anchored Sri Lanka’s 182-4 in 20 overs.
Kumar Sangakkara and Jeevan Mendis clubbed big scores as Sri Lanka posted a challenging 182-4 in the World Twenty20 opener.
Sangakkara, newly crowned ICC player of the year, hit a 26-ball 44, studded with a six and two boundaries, while Mendis smashed four boundaries and a six during his unbeaten 43 off 30 balls, after Zimbabwe put the hosts in to bat.
Tillakaratne Dilshan hit five boundaries during his rapid 39 before he fell caught behind by Brendan Taylor off leg-spinner Graeme Cremer. Skipper Mahela Jayawardene was run out for 13.
Twelve teams competing in the event are divided in four groups, with the top two teams advancing to the Super Eight stage, which will decide the four semi-finalists.
Mahela Jayawardene’s men were put into bat in their Group C game against Zimbabwe in Hambantota, the home town of President Mahinda Rajapakse, with hopes high they can end their 16-year wait for their second global title.
Sports Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage and the president’s son, legislator Namal Rajapakse, shook hands with the players and the national anthems of both teams were played before the match, which starts a three-week cricket fiesta.
Other games will be played in the steamy hill town of Pallekele and the capital Colombo, where the fourth World Twenty20 champions will be crowned on October 7.
The 12-team tournament offers the teardrop-shaped tropical island the chance to showcase its lush landscapes, beaches and ancient temples, and turn the page on the 37-year ethnic conflict that claimed up to 100,000 lives. In 2009, Rajapakse’s regime declared victory over the Tamil Tiger rebels, a group notorious for suicide bombings. The brutal final offensive prompted a UN Human Rights Council resolution against Sri Lanka earlier this year.
Elite commandos and bodyguards have been deployed to guard players as part of a security operation similar to those usually reserved for visiting heads of state.
Sri Lanka also co-hosted the 1996 Cricket World Cup, but Australia and West Indies kept away after Tamil rebels bombed the Central Bank in Colombo, killing 91 people and wounding 1,200 just two weeks before the tournament. The authorities have also launched an undercover operation to ensure there is no corruption by players themselves after international cricket was rocked by a fixing scandal in 2010.
“Both local and international detectives have checked into hotels where the players are staying,” said a top security source, who declined to be named. “We are keeping a close watch on the players and their visitors.”
Sri Lanka start the tournament as one of the favourites, although predictions are notoriously difficult in cricket’s shortest format, which has revolutionised the sport and divided opinion since its introduction in 2003.
Home advantage will help the hosts, who have a well-balanced side including the newly crowned cricketer of the year, wicketkeeper-batsman Kumar Sangakkara. Sri Lanka won the 50-over World Cup in 1996 and have reached the tournament’s two most recent finals, along with the 2009 World Twenty20 title match which they lost to Pakistan.
PTCL brings live commentary
Country’s leading Information Communications Technology provider, Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL) brings live cricket commentary of T20 World Cup 2012 for its customers, which started in Sri Lanka on September 18. The service allows PTCL customers to listen to the exciting T20 cricket anywhere any time. Customers can access live commentary on their landline or Vfone by simply dialing 1216. Each call will be charged at Re 1 per minute exclusive of tax. Through this offer, PTCL aims to facilitate its customers by providing them readily available Live Cricket commentary on their telephone sets.